Stories Never Told
Behind every successful celebrity there is a hard-working publicist.
While we tend to put our Arts and Crafts heroes on pedestals, there were, in fact, very few of whom in their lifetimes would have been called celebrities. When they did achieve front page status, it often stemmed from tragedy.
Frank Lloyd Wright was little known outside Chicago before the vicious murder of his mistress and her two children at his home in Spring Green, Wisconsin in 1914.
No one erected a statue of Elbert Hubbard until he and Alice Moore perished aboard the Lusitania on May 7, 1915.
(And Gustav Stickley is still patiently awaiting his memorial in Syracuse.)
In truth, Elbert Hubbard was better known as a popular motivational speaker on the national Chautauqua circuit than he was as the owner of the Roycroft shops in East Aurora, NY. And while we have since learned that it was Alice Moore Hubbard, his second wife, who proved to be the best business manager at Roycroft, Hubbard also relied on someone whom I had never heard of until just a few days ago.
Garth Wadleigh Cate – his early publicist.
A friend sent me some information pertaining to an inscribed copy of Mark Twain’s book “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” which was sold at Sotheby’s in June of 2013. Twain had inscribed this particular copy as follows: “To Mr. Garth W. Cate: Taking the [temperance] pledge will not make bad liquor good, but will improve it. Truly yours, Mark Twain, Nov. 25, 1906.”
In 1906, as it turns out, young 24-year-old Garth Cate was working as Elbert Hubbard’s publicist and lecture manager. Spotting Cate’s worn copy of “Huckleberry Finn,” Hubbard offered to have it rebound in the Roycroft bindery, then suggested that Cate mail his copy to Samuel Clemmens, asking the famed author to autograph it for him. As Cate documented in a letter still preserved with the book, “So I sent “Huck” back to its spiritual father, and when it returned I was somewhat shocked, having been sent to a temperance Sunday School by a whiskey-fearing mother. Later on, I was to marry a Christian Science practioner, and when she saw this inscription she exclaimed, “Why, that is the most immoral thing I ever saw! How could a great author send such a sentiment to a young man?”
Unfortunately, little is known of Garth Cate. Born in 1882, he married Eva Ray Fleming in 1906, but his young bride died just four years later. By 1910 he had left Hubbard’s employ and was a successful businessman in Phoenix, where he met both his second and third wives. Years later he and his third wife, Lucy, settled in Tryon, NC, where she was actively involved with the Tryon Fine Arts Center. Shortly before his death in 1974, the 92-year-old Cate listed his occupation as “retired travel director.”
And so we are left to our imagination as to what stories Garth Cate could have told about being Elbert Hubbard’s lecture manager.
In case you are curious, that second edition, inscribed copy of “Huckleberry Finn” sold at Sotheby’s in 2013 for $15,000. A book dealer currently has it for sale.
Until next Monday,
“I don’t give a damn for a man who can only spell a word one way.” – Mark Twain
And speaking of authors, if you have written a book and want to sign and sell copies at next month’s National Arts and Crafts Conference, send me an email at BJ1915@charter.net and I’ll fill you in on the details. (Hint: it’s free!)
Also, Elbert Hubbard and the Roycrofters will be explored in a documentary film to be shown at next month’s National Arts and Crafts Conference. For details, go to www.Arts-CraftsConference.com.
Top: A statue of Elbert Hubbard erected in East Aurora and apparently favored by Arts and Crafts pigeons.
Middle: Mark Twain
Below: A young English teacher who taught “Huckleberry Finn.”